A few points as a takeaway from this evening’s game against Leicester, as well as the highlights from United’s 2-0 win.
All teams are equal, but…
One of the gripes made about United last year, and one of the valid criticisms of the manager, was that as he adapted to life at Old Trafford perhaps his track record of success there with other teams left him vulnerable to underestimating just what visitors will do to get a draw from this ground.
Leicester’s performance evoked memories of Sir Alex Ferguson’s 1996 comments about Leeds United ‘cheating’ their manager. How could this team, who won the title and many hearts and fans two years ago, and who attacked with the same verve two weeks ago at Arsenal, be so unapologetic about their change of philosophy here?
There can be no criticising a team who want to get a result but there can be when they approach a similar game so differently. It will in no way be perceived as this anywhere outside of M16 but United’s win was a victory for everyone who enjoys football being played in the right spirit. Of course, that won’t matter to any supporters of United’s rivals, who will welcome the depleted energy levels after exertions against Mourinho’s men. Maybe if Leicester had been so resolute, they would have got a result at Arsenal.
Jose Mourinho passes sternest test of the season
As it was, it was left to United to be a little more patient than they were at Swansea. In this case how can we mark it as anything other than a big tick for the manager, who made all the right subs, and was proven to do so in emphatic style considering the goals came from the changes.
While he was fairly called to task for his squad use last season, he evaluated the problems in front of him, and solved them with the right changes. Just as last week he managed the perfect away performance, here, he made the right changes at the right time.
…but maybe, just *maybe* called it wrong from the start
If there is a question mark to level at the boss it might well be in the sole change from the starting line up. This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to Rashford scoring the decisive goal, more a query about changing a winning side. This is not to say Martial was bad, or even that the decision to recall him wasn’t justified, but, considering the time for squad rotation is fast approaching, it just seemed unnecessary to drop Rashford when it would definitely be seen as that. Still, even if Jose got it wrong, he got it right – because the youngster came on and made the case for himself all the same.
Impressive but doubts remain
United have been far from vulnerable but a note of caution should be uttered; against a Leicester team only interested in seeing Mourinho’s team fail to win, it took clever management to provide a breakthrough. There will be tougher tests and better teams. Even if United win every game between now and their game with Liverpool, and even if they win every game 3-0 – even if they draw or lose one or more – the game against Jurgen Klopp’s team will be the next big occasion for Mourinho to see how far his side have come. Last season they were obviously better than the smaller teams even if they didn’t always get the results. They also played conservative in the bigger games and United fans will be waiting to see if they are as dominant and territorially positive as they seem to be so far with Matic and Pogba as their midfield pair.